KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of quarterback Brady Quinn’s deep throws appeared destined to fly over the heads of all his teammates this week when rookie receiver Junior Hemingway put on a burst of speed, the ball landing in his outstretched hands.
It wasn’t among the most remarkable of plays during the Chiefs’ week of offseason practice, which concluded on Thursday. But it was notable to a team searching for help from its large group of young receivers.
With Dwayne Bowe still absent, the Chiefs finished their offseason work with 12 wide receivers present. Nine of them are in their first or second NFL seasons.
They will need at least a couple of those younger guys to develop into reliable players eventually, if not immediately. The Chiefs expect that one of those players will be Jon Baldwin, who starred in the offseason practices and was their first-round draft pick last year.
The eight other young receivers fall into the hopeful category.
“It’s a good group this year,” said veteran wide receiver Terrance Copper, who is heading into his ninth season after entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie with Dallas in 2004. “I see myself in a lot of these guys. They just have to keep grinding, keep working hard. You can’t ever think you made it. You can’t relax.”
Whether Bowe signs a contract and joins the Chiefs in time for the regular season or not, the Chiefs could use another capable set of hands at receiver. Without Bowe, the need becomes urgent.
Their main receivers, other than Bowe, are Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Dexter McCluster and Copper.
The Chiefs this spring drafted two receivers, Devon Wylie of Fresno State in the fourth round and Hemingway of Michigan in the seventh. An undrafted rookie, Josh Bellamy of Louisville, has also showed some ability in practice.
“The Bellamy kid has some quickness, some size,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He’s a little inconsistent, and we still have to work with him. We’ll have to see how he progresses.
“Wylie, with his quickness and his change of direction, I think all of those things are good. There are things that he has to work on. Those are the two that jump out. The others are beginning to grasp the offense and understand route running. Overall, I think the receiver group is a good group to work with and provides a lot of competition.”
Wylie missed the Chiefs’ last few practices because of a sore hamstring. He said the Chiefs held him out as a precaution and he would be ready for the start of training camp in late July.
“I’m a better player now than when I got here a few weeks ago,” Wylie said. “I’m up to speed on how fast the game is and on our playbook. My routes were getting better.”
Hemingway lasted until the seventh round of the draft because he isn’t very fast and had just 88 catches in four seasons. But he showed a knack for running well after making a catch in college. His production at Michigan was limited because he played with a quarterback, Denard Robinson, who is more of a runner than a passer.
“Junior is doing a pretty nice job,” Crennel said. “He’s come on. I thought he started off a little bit slower, but now he’s come on. He runs good routes, makes good cuts, can catch the football. I think that he’ll be OK.”
Bellamy played two years at a junior college and two seasons at Louisville, where he also played at cornerback. So while he might take some time to develop, the Chiefs might be patient with him.
“There’s a lot more completion out here, more good players, than in college,” Bellamy said. “But football is football. It’s not that much of an adjustment. I’ll be ready to play if they need me.”